Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mark 9:1-2

Mark 9:1-2

(Mar 9:1)  And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."

There are two things I’d like to point out about these two verses, and they illustrate some ways in which we can look at scripture and study the details.

Firstly, is the kingdom of God and the placing of its coming within history.  The potential nature of the kingdom is revealed a little, but for the moment we will keep the nature simple and deal with it as “the rule of Christ on earth”.  There are two popular interpretations as to what Jesus is speaking of here.  Obviously he is considering the coming to occur within the lifetime of some of his disciples, so the popular interpretations fall within this time frame, i.e. within about 50 years of Jesus speaking these words.  Some believe he was referring to his victory over sin and the devil on the cross and the completion of all that was required by the Father for him to make eternal life possible, including the going forth of the gospel in the Spirit via the disciples (after Jesus ascension).  Others believe Jesus to be talking about his transfiguration before three of the disciples which took place in the next passage, with the physical radiance of his glory as the taste of the coming of the kingdom.  Note that Jesus doesn’t speak of the arrival of the kingdom, just its coming, as if it may take place over a period of time.  Along with the restricted time frame, that is why these two ideas are considered the best possible interpretations.

I think that the best interpretation is that of the victory on the cross and following spread of the gospel.  I’ll offer two reasons, keeping it brief:
1. I think that the more evident work of power, visible to those who have eyes to see, is the victory on the cross and the spread of the gospel.
2. Jesus gives a range of 50 years for the fulfillment which would be strange if the fulfillment was to take place next week (within 6 days according to verse two).

However, to counter my own argument, and to demonstrate an open mind (because after all, it does not matter overly much to us 2000 years after the events), it is possible that the 6 days specifically spoken of is some sort of literary device used to ‘hold one’s breath’ while we wait for the immanent fulfillment.  My reasoning here gives me enough of a hint of doubt to not stake my life on this, but even though we are left feeling unsure about the interpretation, the process of thinking through this has been very beneficial.

At the start I said there were two things I’d like to point out.  The second is the issue of the six days in verse two.  Throughout Mark so far, Jesus has been doing things in a rush it seems.  Mark continually shows Jesus to be a man of action as he is always “immediately” doing something.  Have a quick flick back through Mark and see how many times you can see Mark use words referring to Jesus quickly moving onto the next thing.  My question is this: Why does Mark all of a sudden change his pace and take six days in his narrative?  It seems that whenever anything like this occurs within scripture, the writers are trying to draw our attention to something in that section of scripture.  I’m not sure what that something is just yet.  Maybe it is the transfiguration immediately after this pause.  Maybe it is meant to increase the readers feeling of gravity over the cost of discipleship immediately before.  Maybe it’s both.  I’ll ponder it some more...